Thursday, 4 February 2010

Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper **1/2

 Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper 
By Tim Stitz and Kelly Somes
Where and When: La Mama, Feb 4 to 1, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2

Being in the tiny La Mama space for Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper, makes the experience very intimate and personalised. The style is less like a play and more like a personal chat with a cheerful, old bloke called Lloyd Beckmann (Tim Stitz). 

La Mama is transformed into Lloyd’s living room, complete with comfy armchairs, pouffes, cushions, shelves crammed with family photos, books, and other memorabilia.

Lloyd Beckmann was Stitz’s paternal grandfather and the performance is really a tribute to the old man’s indefatigable character and relentless good cheer in the face of adversity. Stitz greets us in the newly renovated La Mama courtyard. He wears beekeeping regalia and conducts an informative session about beekeeping and honey beside a series of hives. Later, we even get to taste honeycomb and are treated to an aromatic sensurround (Jodie Ahrens).

Lloyd was born early last century in Queensland and tried making a living from his honey but resorted to working as a colliery manager until retirement at 64. Everything went pear-shaped with two bad business investments and he and his wife ended up living in a caravan in their latter years.

Stitz devised the play with director, Kelly Somes. The structure of the stories needs some work to make it a more theatrically compelling piece, despite its warmth and intimacy. The through line is unclear and the parallel stories of beekeeping and Lloyd’s personal life are not effectively interwoven. The play could make more of the metaphoric references about the older generation handing on to the next and the old queen bee being replaced by the new breeder.

There is a great deal of love in Stitz’s performance and we feel part of the family and its trial by the time we leave. The most emotive and riveting moment is when we hear Lloyd’s own cracked and aged voice on a cassette tape recording from 2004. Here he comes to life even more vividly than in his grandson’s depiction of him.

By Kate Herbert

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